The Lifeguard

The Lifeguard

by Deborah Blumenthal


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807545355
Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date: 03/01/2012
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Deborah Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist with work in many national newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times. She is the author of The Lifeguard and Fat Chance. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

the lifegaurd

By Deborah Blumenthal


Copyright © 2012 Deborah Blumenthal
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-4733-4


The summer my parents were getting divorced in Texas, I was exiled. Like a child playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, I felt blindfolded, turned in circles, then pushed to stumble off on my own.

I remember the airport. The roar of jet engines. The smell of diesel fuel. I headed for the plane with my beat-up carry-on bag that said Travel Pro—even though I wasn't one—my sketchbooks, art supplies, Ollie, my worn brown teddy bear, and a turkey sandwich on a roll, in case I didn't like plane food.

Before I boarded I stared up at the wide blue sky.

"Good-bye," I whispered. Then I waited. Would a cloud move or the sun shift? All I wanted was a sign, the smallest change, invisible to everyone but me. Something I could hold on to.

But there was nothing.

I fastened my seat belt and pulled it tight. We took off and I pressed my head back against the seat, feeling the rush as the plane went faster and faster and faster until it rose up into the air, as if it turned weightless. I reached up to the chain around my neck and closed my hand around the gold charm from Louisiana that my best friend, Marissa, gave me before I left.

"Arrive the same, leave different," it said.

Would it turn out that way?

Six hours later with a one-stop layover, I arrived on another planet.

Aunt Ellie was waiting for me at the small airport.

"Sirena," she said, hugging me.

I gave her a half smile and heaved my bag into the trunk of her Volvo wagon. She rolled down the windows, and we took off to her giant old gingerbread house near the water. She took my hand and I followed her up a flight of stairs to a dark attic bedroom. Dark until she flung open the blue wooden shutters.

"Voilà," she sang.

Sunlight lit the room like a flash fire.

I stepped to the window. Ocean everywhere with no beginning and no end. A view like that shrinks your head. It puts your life into perspective.

"Surreal," I said.

For hours at a time that summer, I would sit on my window seat hypnotized by the waves, imagining the world hidden below the surface and wondering how I, a miniscule flicker of life, fit into the IMAX-sized universe before me.

My whole world would change after that summer. My parents were living together when I left. When I went back, they'd be apart.

"You'll come back to two homes instead of one," my mom tried. But a positive spin couldn't convince me I'd be gaining something, instead of losing everything. I have friends whose parents are divorced. They need calendars to tell them where to sleep and checklists to track down their stuff.

And then there were the holidays. Where would I go for Thanksgiving and Christmas? How could I celebrate? Who wanted to go back and forth between new homes, no homes? Who wanted to live with sad, single parents looking to start over?

What I wanted was for everything to stop and rewind. I wanted to live in before, not after.

But no one asked me what I wanted.

I try not to think of that now. Everything is different in Rhode Island. I guess that was the point of sending me.

Aunt Ellie's wooden house was built about a hundred years ago, and when the wind blew it groaned like an old person getting out of a rickety chair. One night when it was stormy and it sounded like an atomic battlefield in the sky, I heard strange whispering coming from upstairs. Was I imagining things?

In Texas we have tropical storms and hurricanes that turn cars into boats. We have surprise tornadoes and roaches big as baby mice. But the one thing we never had, in our house at least, was ghosts.

"Is your house haunted?" I ask Aunt Ellie, pretending to joke.

She takes off her glasses and looks up momentarily from the National Geographic on her desk. "Oh sure," she says.

My bedroom had blue-and-white wallpaper with old clipper ships with billowy sails and a double bed with a curvy white iron headboard and sheets as soft and white as magnolia blossoms. Fish X-rays in gossamer shades of inky blue hang on the walls like aquatic Warhols. But the best thing about the room is the pillow-covered window seat in front of the large bay window where I like to sit and watch the ocean.

I don't mind being away from home, I decide right then. I don't mind missing camp and being all alone. In some ways I like it better, because no one will ask me questions I don't want to answer.

Aunt Ellie has a curly-haired dog named Will who's very curious about the new person in his house. He's part wheaten terrier, part something else. Like a dog detective, Will sniffs at my pants, and then at my hair when I bend down to pet him.

"Am I okay?"

His answer is to sniff and keep sniffing, instantly putting together a scent impression of me, the doggy equivalent of a police profile.

Will is five or so, Aunt Ellie thinks. She found him walking near the ocean one day, like a drifter who lost his way. He wasn't wearing a collar, and when she took him to the vet, he didn't have a microchip to tell them where home was. Even though he was a stray, he looked well-fed and he must have been well cared-for because he wasn't skittish in any way.

"It just seemed like the natural thing to bring him home and start the next chapter of his life and mine together," Aunt Ellie said. She already had three stray cats—Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria—a gerbil, two turtles, and a canary, so one more animal wouldn't make all that much of a difference.

Aunt Ellie is like that. Nothing is a big deal to her. Not stray dogs or cats, not ghosts, not divorces, and especially not kids who are homeless. And that's good because I honestly don't think I could survive five minutes in her house if I felt that she pitied me or anything.


There won't be any structure to her summer," my dad yelled to my mom when they were having one of the fights they somehow assumed I couldn't hear. I sat in my room helpless as a chicken facing slaughter. "What's she going to do all day?"

My mom wasn't concerned about doing. She wasn't a structure freak, or an ex-Marine, like my dad. "Ellie lives at the beach," she said in a weary voice, like that should have explained everything.

What she wanted most was to have me airlifted out of our house, the city, and most of all, away from their fights. The beach was a good alternative and probably their only one. Without asking, I knew they wouldn't have money anymore to send me to camp.

"Why can't I just stay home with you?" I asked my mom.

"It's hot here," was all she said. "I want you to have a real summer."

A nanosecond later I was gone.

Aunt Ellie seems okay with having me, although I can't imagine why. Maybe to her I'm some new specimen—the freaky teenage loser artifact—to study like a bug trapped in amber. Still, she's the relaxed type, independent. Totally not uptight. She's six years younger than my mom and she lives by her own rules, which is why she's content on her own in a creaky beach house with unmatched rattan furniture and weird specimens everywhere—from prickly cacti from the Sonoran desert to exotic seashells, Maori masks, and necklaces of snake vertebrae that seem to hiss a warning when you touch them.

I guess Aunt Ellie has so much life around her, she doesn't need a husband and kids, or maybe doesn't want them. I don't know because I never asked her.

"You don't ask unmarried people why they're not married because it's an embarrassing question, like why didn't you get asked to the prom," my mom once said, so I remembered that.

I'm relieved Aunt Ellie isn't married. If she was I'd have to deal with two people wondering what I'm thinking 24/7. The truth is more often I try not to, escaping to art or zoning to a safe haven in my head where it doesn't even matter if my parents are together or not.

"How do you split up someone's life?" I asked Marissa before I left. "Will my dad take my things from birth to eight, and my mom from eight to sixteen?" I was only half kidding. "Will the rest be dumped into garbage bags like clothes from a dead person and hauled off to a thrift shop?"

"You'll still be you," she said. "That's what counts. You won't change, you know?"

I didn't.

I didn't know anything. My brain was on mute along with my life. I'd walk into a room to get something, and then forget what it was. I'd stare into my closet unable to come up with a basis for picking one outfit over another, as if it actually mattered anyway. And when I opened the refrigerator or went to the grocery store, there was food everywhere, but nothing I wanted.

So why not move to a different state, even if it was the smallest of the fifty, a cubbyhole compared to Texas?

At least I'm in a house with a real animal. I fell for Will at first sight. He's sad and scruffy with liquid eyes and a Doberman-sized soul. But even though I'm dog-crazy, I'm almost glad we don't have a dog at home now because of a story I once heard. A married couple who had a dog they both loved desperately was splitting up. They were so angry with each other though that neither of them wanted to give the other the satisfaction of getting the dog.

The one who suffered most was the dog.

He ended up abandoned at a shelter.

Maybe Aunt Ellie knows things like that happen. Maybe that's why she never got married. Anyway, she seems to have this sixth sense about making people feel better, because before I arrived she bought me a present.

"Close your eyes," she said. When I opened them a wooden easel was open in front of me.

"I love it," I said. I really did. It was the perfect gift. It felt like someone had just crowned me a world-acclaimed artist. I never had an easel before and just looking at it made me feel important. I think she found it at a garage sale or something because it had little splatters of paint on it from the person who owned it before. Based on nothing, my turbo-charged imagination decided that the previous owner was an extraordinary painter who transferred mythical powers to the easel, and now it was my responsibility to uphold that artistic legacy. Of course if I told anyone something like that they'd just look at me and say, "You know, Sirena, you live in a total fantasy world."

And they'd be right.

Before I even unpacked my bag, I set up the easel near the window. I had never done any sea pictures before. I'd watch the water in different lights and changing weather to know it and learn to draw it. I could do it, I decided, if I tried hard enough. All it would take was willpower.

What I didn't know then was that my entire summer at the ocean would be about knowing new worlds. Things would happen that weren't supposed to. Miracles would come true. And for the first time in my life, I would find out what it means to fall completely in love. Only it would happen in a way even I could never have imagined.

But let me start at the beginning.


My red bathing suit is old and faded. I haven't worked out in a month, so what I see in the mirror is the Pillsbury doughboy reincarnated as a 16-year-old girl. I could hide under a sweatshirt or wear a bathrobe to the beach, but rare-day alert: I don't care.


Refresher course: The state of big hair, big oil, shirts with snaps, and barbeque—my real world—is two thousand miles away.

Texas is also a state of man-made lakes and easy tides and hello, in front of me is a giant ocean with wild, crashing waves, so I morph into a psyched six-year-old and zigzag in and out of the water, playing tag with the surf. I pretend that Marissa's with me, because an imaginary friend is better than no friend at all. The sunlight glints off the water like a million winking lights.

"Ow," I call out, suddenly. Something sharp has stabbed my sole. Now I get why serious runners don't go barefoot. Pebbles and sharp shells poke out of the smooth blanket of wet sand. You can't avoid them. I hop into the water to numb the pain then focus on the music in my iPod and keep going.

I concentrate on the rhythm of the music; the bongo drum beats of my heart. Eyes closed, I'm making my way through a world of darkness, all outside distractions shut away. When one sense is closed off, do the others compensate? I open my eyes to make sure I'm not about to collide head-on with anyone, then close them again and fill my lungs with salty air.

Breathe, they tell you when you exercise. Don't forget to breathe. I take hungry breaths and fill my lungs, flashing back to early morning hikes at camp when the world smelled fresh and piney as if it were the first day of creation and it belonged to us alone, the children of paradise. We'd run back on empty chanting one sorry chorus of a hundred bottles of beer on the wall after another and finally reward ourselves by fueling up on spongy yellow French toast and maple syrup. Then we'd go back to the bunk to write letters, mostly because we wanted to get mail, the only tangible proof of popularity.

What if I really was blind? What would I pick up through my other senses? I shut my eyes for longer, then I half-collide with an oncoming runner.

"Christ," he mutters under his breath.

He's pissed, I've broken his stride.

"Sorry," I mutter. When he's far behind me, I try again, this time with my headphones off. I listen to the squealing seagulls, breathe in the briny ocean scent, feel my skin tingle from the salty mist. I try to rise to another level of awareness and—



I'm lifted up as if a twister swept me off the ground before I realize what's happening.

Only this was no force of nature.

Or if it was, it was disguised in a very human form. He moved fast, decisively, like a giant raptor lifting me off my feet. I see only tanned arms and long blond hair that smells like coconut.

"What are you doing?" I remember a self-defense maneuver and wrap my leg around his and kick him behind the knee. He loses balance, tumbling back into the sand. He doesn't let go so I plow into him and my chin slams a jaw bone as hard as a steer's horn.

"Ow," I moan, "what's wrong with you?"

He flips me in an instant and jumps up, lightning quick on his feet.

"Me?" He stares in disbelief.

I lay there for a moment, disoriented. What just happened?

The sun is at his back. His leans forward, casting a long shadow over me, like a giant web. That's when I see his face for the first time. I open my mouth, only no words come out.

Sun-striped hair falls straight against the sharp, smooth planes of a face, so classically perfect he could be a Greek statue come to life. Green-gold eyes hold mine a beat longer than they should.

I stare back.

And begin to unravel.

The corners of his mouth turn up. A slight headshake. "Did you think I was trying to kidnap you?"

"What were you doing?" A wave of annoyance rises up in me. "You scared me half to death." I get to my feet and brush the sand off my sore bottom. My face already throbs with pain.

He narrows his eyes and shakes his head dismissively, as if it's so obvious. "The sea urchin."

The what?

As if in answer, he lifts his chin in the direction of something in the sand, ahead of us. "You were about to land on it."

I stare at something black and scary, almost the size of a tennis ball. It's covered with quills. He scoops it up and carries it back to me in his open palm like an offering. "They have sharp, venom-coated spines that break off in your skin," he says, almost in awe.

I step back and he leans toward me. "Not something you'd want to land on."

"Sorry ... I ... had no—"

He carries it to the water, then reaching back with the grace of a javelin thrower, he tosses it far out into the ocean. Without as much as a backward glance, the elite athlete sprints off in the opposite direction.

Only then do I see the back of his tank top:



I made sure to check the sign on the fence outside the beach: Lifeguard schedule. I had enough going on in my head without seeing his gloating expression when he saw me again—if he recognized me at all. I didn't tell Aunt Ellie what happened. She'd probably think it was funny and if she told her friend Mark, they'd both be convinced I was totally spacey.

But now Aunt Ellie wants to go walking on the beach. She's sun-phobic, so she only goes at sunrise or sunset.

"So wear sunblock."


Excerpted from the lifegaurd by Deborah Blumenthal. Copyright © 2012 Deborah Blumenthal. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Lifeguard 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It started off really slow, but got more interesting as the book went on.
Book_Sniffers_Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have mixed feelings about this book. It started off slow with Sirena being shipped out to her aunt's while her parents separated. The first half of the book is her worrying over what life will be like when she goes back to not one home but two split between her parents. That part was a little dragging for me but then Sirena becomes stalkerish over the lifeguard, Pilot and things started to get uncomfortable. She buys a new bikini to wear at the beach so that he notices her over his girlfriend and steals a painting of him at an art gallery that was painted by a local artist, who just so happens to be her friend. She went from being a normal teenage girl to crossing over to creeper'ville. She didn't act like any 17 year old I ever knew. Yeah, maybe I took the photo of my high school crush(turned sweetheart, now husband) from yearbook club when they were just going to throw it away but I never stole anything of his. I just thought that some of the things that she did and thought were a bit far fetched and shallow to me. However, once she almost dies she seems to calm down some and that was when I really got invested in the story. That is when you find out that Pilot is a shaman and that he can heal people. The two of them start to become really close and he opens up a little bit more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OMG!!!!!! This was one of the best books that i have ever read anf i have read a lot of books. I really recomend reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really loved this book. It's not just a summer romance book...there's a whole other side to it - it's much deeper than all these other summer romances I've been reading. It's about a girl going through a lot of changes one pivotal summer and meeting an extraordinary guy but then there's a whole super natural side - pretty amazing. Definitely recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not a normal summer romance, it is so much more. The yound characters go on thier own emotional adventure, while keeping you completley glued. Have a box of tissues handy! This is a brillant book.
Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks 23 days ago
The Lifeguard was not the story I was expecting and it wasn't really a joy to read. It seemed all over the place from Sirena's move in with her aunt because her parents were divorcing to the ghosts in her aunt's house. Her obsession with Pilot was strange and not because she was an awkward teenager around him, but because she basically stalked him. It's not a typical YA romance, which I'm sure some people will love, but it just wasn't for me.
bhwrn1 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I received this book for review via Net Galley and would like to thank them for the opportunity to read it.Sirena's life it falling apart, at least she thinks so. Her parents are getting divorced and to her this is worse than death. She is shipped off to Rhode Island for the summer to spend time with her aunt while her parents get things settled in Texas. Rhode Island turns out to be a very different world than the one Sirena knows. There she meets new people, learns of of their shamic skills, realizes ghosts really do exist and falls hard for Pilot, the local lifeguard.I loved the way the writer was able to pull me into this book. At first, I wasn't sure about the long paragraphs of narrative, but for this book they actually worked. I was also skeptical of the first person narrative, but for the most part it was appropriate for this book. This book flowed like it was Sirena's journal, relating her summer to us and all the things she learns. She even mentions in the book about how she once thought of starting a diary but never did it.I liked the fact that Sirena was not the whiny teenager we often see in love stories such as this. Did she have her jealous moments? Of course she did, it wouldn't be young adult romance without it. But it wasn't overwhelming and it didn't seem to consume every thought she put out to the audience of the book. And she was brave, which surprised me because I didn't think she had it in her at first. She stood up to her fears, she faced her realities, she looked life straight in the face and learned what it was to live. We learn a lot from her letters to her best friend Marissa, who is spending the summer at camp.Pilot is very mysterious. He keeps much to himself and doesn't let Sirena in. Their moments together are often quiet. He's this perfect "Godlike" boy who saves people not only with his lifeguarding skills, but with his healing powers. He is almost angelic. He has "powers" that allow him to feel what people are feeling, hear when people are in distress and help people out of dangerous situations.Sirena's Aunt Ellie leaves Sirena alone for the most part. She gives her space so her wounds can heal and she can realize that life it worth living. That her life is worth something outside of her family being only a cookie cutter crew. And her friend, Mark, is very supportive of Sirena, as well, although we don't see much of him in the book.Antonio is an 80 year old painter who spends his time capturing every emotion, every nuance his painted scenery has, whether that is a still life or a person. He listens to Sirena, when she just needs an ear. And he points things out to her in an unobtrusive way so she can come to her own conclusions about her life.All in all I really enjoyed this book. I read it in less than 24 hours. Blumenthal really has a way with words. Her writing flows and is lyrical, her descriptive abilities poetic. I didn't really want to put the book down. I loved that the end really had no wind up, no final conclusion as if it might have a sequel but still does so well as a stand alone.I give this book 3.5/5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do you know whi the boy on the cover is? Its me. My name is Jake Artiga-Vasquez. Im nineteen yrs old.Im single. Any girls that is cute and avaliable reply to Jake. Tekk me ur phone #.and u have to live in california. In San francisco.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved reading it. i couldnt but it down 
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AMAZING. When I first bought it, I thought it would be one of those typical summer love storys that all end the same. This is the complete opposite! It is so good and not like any other book I've ever read. I'm not gonna lie, the beginning is really slow and boring, but once you get going you won't be able to stop!!! I finished it in like two days. Must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the book for a school project and I fell in love with it. It's a really great read, especially for people who are into love stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I loved how pilot connected with her. Please write a sequel or i will die!!!
HavenFowler More than 1 year ago
I honestly thought this book was just going to be a summer fling book. Just a hot guy gets the hot girl and they live happily ever-after, I was totally wrong. I loved the book, it was so much more than what I was expecting which is always nice. I guess maybe I liked it so much becuase all I was expecting was a high school love book I got so much more out of it, and the ending is really good so read it and find out what happens!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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MyReadAddiction More than 1 year ago
So I guess this could be categorized in the paranormal genre, but it really reads more like a YA Contemporary Romance. The gifts Pilot has are not as much paranormal as mystical, and the focus of the story is on the development of his relationship with Sirena and not the Mystical gifts. That being said, I really did enjoy this story. This story is in no way a typical YA book. There are a lot of elements that makes it stand out from others and that is a VERY good thing! The characters are so easy to connect with and you fall a little in love with all of them by the time it is over. Sirena's relationship with Antonio was on of my favorites. I just think that Antonio is that grandparent you want to have. The relationship between Sirena and Pilot was believable and utterly sweet. I think there is just generally a new depth to the emotions I got as a reader from this book. I look forward to reading more by Deborah Blumenthal in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The only problem is that i tought the girl was a bit weird. But other than tht AMAZING<3 the ending was sad. (Cant say what happens) The ending brought tears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was a little slow at first but totally worth it! The ending was GREAT. I really want there to be a sequel! Tha would be soo wonderful!